Meet the hive mind of the weirdest band going, Itchy-O
When Denver’s Itchy-O put out a record on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label earlier this year, the resounding response was “wait, is this really a band?” And indeed, it is—a 32-member marching band that plays shows masked and refuse to reveal their identities. Their music is dark, experimental and tribal, and incorporates a lot of noise and electronics. Their performances, meanwhile, are interactive, and constantly break the fourth wall—they are even known to throw “spontaneous” shows in public spaces to unsuspecting victims.
In order to maintain their anonymity, the group only conducts interviews via email, supposedly as a collective. In anticipation of their show Nov. 3 at Don Quixote’s, we did our best to probe their hive mind.
You guys like to keep a pretty tight lid on the band’s history, and who the members are when they’re not Itchy-O. What can you tell us?
ITCHY-O: We can neither confirm nor deny associations with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, nor are we allowed to comment on accusations of being the first successfully cloned, test-tube band, used from stem cells gleaned from Hedy Lamarr, Liberace, and Animal from the Muppets.
As a performance-art marching band, whose music inspires you?
Being comprised of so many members, this is a real loaded-doozy of a question, but oddly enough there have been no homicides related to music picks while traveling together. We obviously are partial to those things dark and obscure, but if you step back and examine our arrangements, it’s not hard to tell that we are also greatly influenced by your earthlings’ pop-music.
You must have a pretty insane band house.
We’re kinda between places right now. Currently we’re staying with Jello Biafra and his cats in his small flat in Oakland, while the kitchen in our hollowed-out mountain in Wyoming gets remodeled.
How did you meet Jello Biafra?
Jello loved Itchy-O right off the bat. At our first show, our Creep division, a cloaked team of highly skilled provocateurs (something between belly dancers and rodeo clowns), without having any idea who Jello was, molested him hard. But even after this, he still had to be sold on signing us. He did not believe, at first, that Itchy-O could be captured on a record. But after presenting him with the EP recorded at [Denver’s] Absinthe Studios, he was sold, and we finished the full length there.
You’re known for playing quite a few guerrilla performances. Now that you are playing a tour in actual venues, how will that affect the interactive nature of your shows?
The adrenaline that comes from playing virgin crowds and blowing fresh minds is absolutely addictive. Seeing the “why is this happening?” expression on people’s faces as they surrender themselves to dancing is absolutely electrifying. But now that we are a little more well known, we have to find ways to augment these scheduled shows by crashing things here and there. But we also often hear from fans saying stuff like “I can’t wait to turn my friends on to Itchy-O,” or “my grandma is going to crap her pants!” This makes us so happy that fans are able to tap into this “exposure-energy-by-proxy.” And touring, of course, has become another way for us to reach more and more virgins. Not to mention our production has come a long way since we went mobile. We’ve added a number of elements like taiko drummers, Chinese lion dancers, and a ton of new sophisticated gizmos like our 16-unit wireless system and digital sound board that make playing large venues as engulfing as any small intimate room, and we’re super excited to take advantage of Don Quixote’s International Music Hall.
Did you wear your masks when you were in the studio recording your album?
Of course we did. The only time we’re allowed to take them off is to clean the cat box.
Itchy-O performs at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov.3 at Don Quixote’s in Felton, $10.